Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

What a full day - I was off, but went into work anyway for our annual Halloween potluck. Usually we have several employees dress up, but this year only two did, and one hula-girl dog!

For dinner I made an incredible pumpkin soup (from Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver). You cook the soup in the hollowed out pumpkin. I substituted half and half for some of the milk, and pureed it all for a nice texture, then served it from the pumpkin shell with a ladle. The kids were impressed with the presentation, and we all loved the flavor. Might merit a Thanksgiving redo...

Sadly, I don't have any pics of our dinner, or the Spider Web bean dip and dark chocolate covered pumpkin seed-raisin clusters I took to work. At least you won't form a club hating me, or accuse me of being on crystal meth (which is what my coworkers jokingly said about me today. Guys! I was off today so I could do lots of cooking! No soup for you!). I do have obligatory Trick-or-Treat pics. Click to enlarge, so you can see detail like what kind of candy they got or Colin's toe worming its way out of his sock...

Monday, October 29, 2007

Goodbye Girl

Just coming down from a nice, long weekend visit with my sister Emily, newly of NYC. I know we've gone longer without having a visit from her before, but just knowing she's been so far away makes the heart grow fonder.

"What do you want to do this weekend?" I asked her after she arrived. "I just want lots of huggin's and lovin's," she said. "Family stuff." No problem; we've got bags of 'em. All I wanted to was go to the Farmers' Market Saturday morning.

Of course, I woke up with a killer of a headache Saturday morning, also known as Le Migraine. I haven't had one since July, gracias dios. "Can I do anything for you?" Emily asked. "No..." I said, slumped on the couch. She emptied the dishwasher anyway. Two imitrex and three advil later, she and Anna and I went out the door, headache be damned.

I don't know if it was the glorious fall sunshine, or buying all that local produce, or all the drugs (most likely), but an hour later I was finally feeling better. I was thrilled by how much was being offered, and bought the last radishes, cucumber, butternut squash, AND eggplants at several stands. I got everything I wanted, except I didn't see any pumpkins or apples.

Poor Emily's bag got lost between Dallas and Austin - and it was GATE-CHECKED! - so she went shopping in the afternoon with Anna, and of all people, Anthony. He's not a shopper, but has gotten Macintosh-lust lately, and not the kind at the Farmers' Market. He went to the Apple store, they went to Macy's, and I prepped for the grill. My Chippendale kitchen help notwithstanding.

I was pleased that everything on the table was local, except the onion (from Colorado). The lamb chops (grass fed) were tender and devoured by my sister and I (it's genetic) and the kids (they love anything on a bone). The token chicken breast was from Costco for Anthony (he is not a lambophile). The grilled portobello mushrooms were TO DIE FOR; we all wished I'd made more of those.

Anthony left for work Sunday afternoon, much easier to take with Emily being around. Monday Anna was off of school for a teacher-in-service. All day long she kept saying, "I'm so glad I'm off!" because she got to bike around the lake with Emily while I jogged, clean and carve her jack-o'lantern, and go to lunch with little Bev. While she was at ballet class, I took Emily back to the airport. It was a great weekend. Absence does make the heart grow fonder.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Kitchen Helper

I love a man in the kitchen, doing dishes!

Don't you?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Food Meme

Sinda tagged me for this meme long ago, and I actually have been looking forward to completing it (not avoiding it!), but you know, life gets in the way.

Basically, starting with each letter in your blog's name or your posting name, write about a food item with meaning to you.

V - has to be vino. Almost anything red, a few choice whites, no pink stuff (except maybe bubbly pinot noir). It is magic - take the concentrated pruned fruit from the best old vines, ferment the sugar into alcohol, age in oak, bottled and sent to your table...mmmm.

E - eggs. From chickens that get to run around, scratch in the dirt, and eat bugs and turn them into delicious, easily digested protein. I love them soft-boiled, with that rich orange runny yolk.

T - tomatoes, aka pomodori. Even Anthony, who is no tomato lover, can appreciate a homegrown heirloom, particularly when paired with good mozzarella, olive oil, and basil. (He's also partial to my salsa and my simplice pomodoro salsa.) All I need is a little salt. Once as a kid I remember we were visiting in Dallas, and all of the sudden my mom pulls over. She saw a man selling homegrown tomatoes in his front yard, sitting in a lawn chair. "Why is she buying that?" I thought from the back seat of the car. At my grandmother's table a few hours later, I ate the tommys that she'd sliced and sprinkled with Morton's. Then, I understood.

M - Milk, in all its many forms. My family is so lactose dependent. We drink skim, put half-n-half in our coffee, eat yogurt, ice cream, and lots and lots of cheese. Sometimes I wish we had a Jersey in our backyard.

O - Olive. The name of a beloved Auntie, and also one of the most sublime fruits we have. Who ever figured out if you soaked 'em in lye then brine, they'd be so tasty? Or, if you smashed a million of 'em, you'd get a quart of green oil that blesses every food it anoints. Thank heavens they did.

M - Meatballs. I love them, always have. Too bad they remind Anthony of meatloaf.

M - again? Umm, miele, which is Italian for honey. Which I prefer over maple syrup on my waffles and pancakes.

Y - yams, aka sweet potatoes. I am so glad my friends Lisa & Michael taught me to grill them. Anna ate so many as an infant she developed a golden glow. I'd eat more of them, if only my family would enjoy them, too.

I hereby tag Stephanie, Emily, and my Dad, plus anyone else who loves food and wants an easy blog topic.

PS Thanks, Anthony, for adding those beautiful pics to my Minneapolis post.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Minne recap

Well, obviously I was way to occupied learning about teeth while I was in Minneapolis to bother with posting. Thank goodness the Dental Conference is not in November, aka NaBloPoMo!

Minneapolis was great. I got there and it was refreshingly cold and drizzling. All the locals were complaining about the rain, but to me it was relief. I took the quick, cheap, easy light rail downtown and walked the 8 blocks to my hotel without my umbrella. After so many hours on a plane, it felt good to move and feel the atmosphere on my face.

Anthony joined me on this trip (he's always game to see a new place, and had never been to Minnesota before either), but he didn't join me until Friday. Luckily for me, a fellow blogger who lives in the Minneapolis suburbs was available and kindly picked me up for dinner. This was vastly better than trying to hustle a drug rep to take me to dinner or eating room service in my room (plus I finished my book on the plane).

Angie and I have been reading each other's blogs for about 2 years now. Its been a tumultuous time in her life, and I really felt like we were acquainted already, although of course we'd never met or even had a phone conversation. Of course I didn't really know her personally, but I knew her story. She was very much like I thought she'd be in person, although I underestimated her Minnesota accent. (That's OK, she underestimated my height!)

She asked me if I wanted to eat at this great gourmet pizza place she knew of, or if I wanted more Minnesota fare. "What is Minnesota fare?" I asked her. "Wall-eye?" Maybe a smorgasbord. We went to Pizza Luce, and it was great. I had a super locally brewed beer called Surly (you would've loved it, Lisa).

We did talk all night, got lots of the inside scoop on all our stories. I couldn't believe it when it was 10 pm already. Who knows if we'll ever get to repeat, but I hope so.

The conference started 8 am the next morning - all veterinary dentistry, all the time. I learned a new endodontic technique I'm pretty jazzed about, and also took a lab on bunny and guinea pig teeth. Their incisors are really long and curved, and are quite challenging to get out! Anthony came Friday afternoon. We ate at a good Indian restaurant, then I took him back to Pizza Luce Saturday. He loved it, too!

Here's what Minneapolis had that Austin does not: leaves with fall color, awesome light rail, snow bibs at Target, and tons of people in knit caps. Also, the Mall of the Americas, but we skipped that one.

Anth and I flew back separately, and both our planes were delayed due to weather (me - snow in Denver, Anth - high winds in Chicago). The kids were asleep when I came home, but we had a very happy reunion and hassle free routine this morning. Giggling, they tiptoed in to kiss their sleeping dad in bed before we were off to school.

We brought the cold weather with us. It was cold in the 40s, with gusting winds and driving rain this morning. I still took Francesca around the lake (in record time). Goodbye tomatoes, basil, peppers... come on, arugula!

Thursday, October 18, 2007


The kids were pretty upset about the demise of the chicks, especially Anna. Anthony handled the whole thing with them really well. Anna is happier now, since she lost her other front tooth last night. After it hurt her all through dinner, she finally plucked it out herself.

Today I am leaving, on a jet plane, for Minneapolis. The veterinary dental conference is there. Today's high in Austin is going to be 92; in Minneapolis its 62. I picked 6 big and 5 small tomatoes yesterday out of my garden. Crazy.

Hopefully I'll get a chance to scintillate you with more travel writing. Anthony joins me tomorrow, while his mom watches the kids.

New post at Mia Cucina, now with photos!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bird of pollos

When we went to Houston last weekend, I boarded the chicks (and Francesca) at my clinic. Our old hens would be fine on their own, but I knew the chicks would spill their feed and their water in the first few hours we were gone. They are growing fast, and their rapid metabolisms would need the nourishment.

I brought the chicks in their bird cage and put them in a small kennel. "Just make sure they have food and water twice I day," I told the staff. Everyone loved them - they are cute, and their cheeping is different from the usual animal noises we hear.

I picked up the dog and the chicks yesterday and brought them home. I went back to work today without any of them. I put the bird cage on the back patio, close to our kitchen door. I noticed after 4 weeks, nearly all the fluffy chick feathers are replaced now with small adult feathers.

Anthony called me in the afternoon. He said that he saw a hawk sitting on our patio. He went out to investigate, and found a gruesome crime scene. The hawk immediately flew off, but had already killed both chicks, skinning one and disemboweling the other. Feathers were everywhere, and blood was spattered on the sliding glass door.

The hawk had managed all this through the cage bars. He didn't open the doors or tear anything up.

I immediately felt sick to my stomach. I wasn't attached to the hen chicks -- they weren't exactly pets, but they were cute, and the end must've been awful.

My coworkers were sad, too. The chicks had been a cheerful diversion to our routine. Moments before I got the call we had been talking about fresh egg omelets and "Rhode Island Reds" (their breed). Some people wondered why the hawk would eat them, but of course, nature is cruel and opportunistic. This was hawk fast food - quick and easy McNuggets.

The hawk returned to the scene of the murder at least 6 times. Francesca barked and raised her hackles, but she was in her kennel when the initial attack occured. The older hens huddled in their coop.

Now we don't know what we'll do. We need replacements for our aging flock, but we don't want anymore tragedies. Maybe we'll figure out some kind of hiding box for the next chicks.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I left my camera at home, so I stole all these photos from my Dad's blog.

We went to Houston for a family visit this weekend. We were greeted by this sign. Wouldn't it make you feel welcome? (click to enlarge) Then we went to the pumpkin patch for photos. We dressed the kids alike on purpose, but Bev, Steph, and I happened to be matching, too. The weather helped it actually feel like fall, too.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Bring on the pampering bribery

Recently veterinarians made the news for becoming majority female. Vet school classes for years now have been graduating classes that have more women than men, but the overall population was still masculine. Although most practice owners are still male, and the AVMA officers this year are all old, white guys, the tide has turned. Drug companies are taking notice.

Instead of courting veterinarians favor with things like hunting and fishing trips, this year we have seen invitations to SPA EVENTS. Can I get an AMEN?!? These invitations are for the women veterinarians of the practice only. My very progressive male boss (who does enjoy a deep tissue massage) offered to switch days so one of my colleagues could go with me, and we could enjoy a day of pampering together.

We met this morning at a relatively new spa in the Austin area, one with views of the lakes and hills. After a very informal discussion of some of their products (no aggressively pushed agenda here), half the group left for massages. I was in a later group, so I went on a 45 minute hike on some of the trails - no people, no traffic, just me and the trees, dragonflies, and bees. Also, the weather here is finally a few degrees cooler, and definitely drier. After hiking I moseyed over to the spa and had a great massage - really, one of the best I've ever had - by a petite firecracker of a woman. Then we all enjoyed a delicious, organic spa lunch, with lots of mellow, work-related conversation. We were free to enjoy the facilities afterwards as long as we liked, so Alissa and I swam and enjoyed the shade and views of the infinity pool.

I was surprised at how relaxed and comfortable I got. The whole day was quite a treat. Hooray for the feminine influence on the profession!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

It's Coming...

I can't believe its almost here already. NAtional BLOg POsting MOnth, where one pledges to post once every day in the month of November. Come on, you should do it, too - you know you love it when your friends do it.

Some nights I was so tired and had no thoughts. 15 minutes later I couldn't believe how much I'd written.

It's like your blog, with diarrhea...

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Magnum Opus

Anna read this chapter book today. All 107 pages!

OK, I did read it to her aloud a year ago after she got it for her birthday. And, her preschool teacher read them this series a lot. Anna read me the first chapter last night, then this morning - while I read the newspaper - she sat beside me and silently read 8 more chapters. She was so proud of herself she actually cried "happy tears." Tonight before bed she read the last chapter out loud.

I am so proud of her. She breezed through words like encyclopedia, exhibit, and brilliant. She did ask me for help with some, like scented and disguise. We are going to go to the beginning of this series to get her more material. Any other suggestions, Library Lady?

On the crafty front, Anna and Colin also both made a stuffed pillow today. Colin helped me "drive" the sewing machine and stuffed his pillow like a maniac. Anna made a pattern, pinned the fabric, stuffed the pillow, and drove the machine with minimal assistance. They both were very pleased with their pouffy results. "Feel mine, with your cheek!" they both told me.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Little laments

I am reading with jealousy about all the nice fall weather ya'll are having in Washington, Maine, Michigan, Utah, and NY. The calendar says OCTOBER but its still hot as blazes here. It does not motivate one very much to finish any landscaping projects when its still 95 degrees outside! We were supposed to get a cold front this weekend, but apparently it heard about the heat and changed its mind.

I'm tired of sweating.

Here are some pictures of Bring Your Parents to School Night, which was enjoyed very much by everyone but me. It was held from 6-7 pm, and that's the time I get to spend in traffic after I work. Blah for traffic. This is turning into a rather complainy post. Here's some of the cute pics Anth took so I wouldn't feel so left out.

Anna showed off her work, including a book about herself. This picture says, "I am special because I have a bruthr."

They spent some time in the reading corner of her room:

Then they explored the music room. All the pictures of Colin playing the Xylophone came out blurry. He was really feeling the music!

Then there was the art room.

Anna paints a portrait of herself and her friend K. sitting right next to her.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Phonics, by Colin

Colin is starting to learn his letters, and we try to help him practice in everyday conversations.

"It's about a TRAIN!" he told us, talking about a new DVD Anthony got for Rail Fans.

"Right! What letter does TRAIN start with?" Anthony asked him.

"C-H," Colin said.

We laughed, so he guessed, "S-H!"

"No," I said, "Tuh, Tuh, TRAIN! It's a T."

"No!" said Colin. "CHRain! C-H!" He would not be convinced otherwise.

He wanted to watch the chrains so badly, we let him watch the DVD for 10 minutes after his bath instead of his bedtime story. Apparently he didn't fully understand the full ramifications of this trade. I've never seen him so indignant as he was tonight, crying in his bed.

"I want TWO ATTITUDES!" he wailed. "I want a video and a book. I want two atti-tuuuuuuuuudes!"
Clearly he's also not completely understanding what we mean when we say we don't like his attitude and want him to change it.